Monday, September 30, 2013

It's an epidemic

Lately, I've been hearing about other marriages that have faced the same damn thing.  Is there something in the water around here?  And it's always the men.  That's part of what makes the future seem so hopeless.  I don't like to play into gender stereotypes, and I know there are some women who have affairs and ditch their marriages.  Hell, my own sister did.  But it certainly seems to be more of a man thing.  If it was 50/50 then I would feel like there would be a reasonable selection of men out there who have lived through my side of the story, who are good men who deserve to have good marriages, etc.  It's not that I don't think they exist, it's more the issue of a reasonable selection.   And once I'm ready to date, how will I know that some guy isn't actually a creep who left his wife.  They can seem nice, but how do you really know without hearing the wife's side of the story.
I have an acquaintance who is becoming a friend.  She's the mom of one of the students at school.  Something about a vague Facebook post a couple months ago made me wonder what was up with her. Her veiled reference to pain raised red flags.  I inquired and eventually found out that she's going through the exact same thing I am.  The parallels are pretty astonishing.  Only she was able to "kill the unicorn" as she puts it.  Love that phrase.  She has a good story to tell about how she eliminated the possibility of a realistic relationship between her husband and his affair partner.  She's pretty awesome.  We went on a hike and then had a long conversation yesterday.  Being 9 months ahead of her, I feel like I want to offer her help and support, but what do I know.  I want there to still be hope for her marriage, and at the same time, my heart breaks for her because it seems like there is as little hope as there was for mine.  At least her husband is honest about his lack of willingness to try.  Mine pretended to try for 4 months.
Her husband is an attractive, friendly man and he came to a meeting today at school.  I couldn't help think, God, what if I didn't know the situation?  What about the other men out there whose situation I won't know.  What if I date someone like him?  Yuck.  I realize I'm borrowing a jack as we say in my family.  So, in a rather hopeless attempt at saving their marriage since I can't save my own, I wrote him the following letter this morning and gave it to him when I saw him at the meeting.

I wanted to talk with you today, but I wasn’t sure that I would have the time, the nerve, or the ability to coherently say what I wanted to, so I decided to write a note instead.  Please know first of all, this is not coming from any official capacity as a ---------- employee.  It is not my job as ----------- to tell people what to do with their lives, and so please don’t think that is why I’m doing this.  Actually, from that perspective I’m sure it would be very inappropriate.  However, as a woman who has lost her husband in the past year through an affair and a painful fracturing of my life, and as grown woman who nearly lost her father when I was exactly (your daughter's) age, I couldn’t help but say something. 

When I was 12 and in between 6th and 7th grade, my family was in the midst of a big transition.  We were moving home to Washington after living for 3 years in Alaska.  Like any marriage, my parents’ had had ups and downs, but after 18 years of marriage (yes, there are a lot of parallels here), they were in a good place at the time.  Something about the move triggered all these issues for my dad.  I won’t get into all the family details, but he ran off to Florida with a woman and then wanted to call it quits.  Long story short, no one thought their marriage could have recovered from that, but it did.  He came to his senses at one point and decided to do the work he needed to do to salvage things.  Given what I’ve gone through in the past year, we’ve talked much about that time in retrospect.  He has explained how unbelievably freeing it was in the long run to crawl out of the dung-heap or cesspool of the situation so to speak and clean himself off and become a new man.  Hardest thing he’s ever done, but once you’ve hit bottom, you have the freedom to make mistakes and see yourself as human and then work on refining yourself into the best person you can be.  He had to regain the respect of everyone around him, but the only way he could do that was to learn about himself and learn to love himself.  He spent a couple years doing that inner work.  Journaling, meditating, counseling, etc.  He still does that inner work.  He is far from a perfect person; none of us are, but he is a happy man with a family who loves him dearly, and who enjoys the benefits of a lifetime of marriage to the same woman.  They are retired now and so love being together.  They are as happy as can be.  That doesn’t mean conflict-free, even after 45 years of marriage, they still have the occasional frustration with each other, but less than ever now.  And though not an emotional man by nature, he is known to get choked up when he thinks about how close he came to losing it all. 

This story gave me a tremendous amount of fuel to do anything I could to save my own marriage this past year, but alas, I was unsuccessful.  But maybe I can help plant a little seed that will save yours. 
I am very close with both my parents.  I always have been with the exception of about two years after my father’s affair.  As a 12-year old girl, very connected to my mother’s grief, it took me longer than just about anyone in the extended circle of family and friends to trust him again.  He fell from being my hero and champion to a place of the lowest possible value in my eyes.  He patiently waited it out over nearly two years as my anger toward him gradually wore away.  And I’m so grateful that he did and that it did.  Today we are as close as ever.  Thank God for my father who is helping me know as I navigate the horrible financial challenges of this divorce process I’m facing!  I know without a doubt though that had my father not come back, had he not been willing to do the hard inner work that was needed to rise out of that hellish situation like a phoenix, we would not have the relationship that we do today.  And not only would I not have a positive relationship with my father, it would have been very damaging to my own ideas about relationships with men and marriage.  Now, it turns out that I still chose a crappy partner apparently.  A man who is too afraid of the personal work one needs to do to keep growing in a marriage. I didn’t realize at the time that (my STBEX) was so incompetent in that area.  But he certainly wasn’t like my father, who had the courage at the darkest point to make the harder choice and do what was needed to save his marriage.  I wish I had married someone like that as I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in.  I loved him dearly and we had a good life together and three amazing boys who don’t deserve to have their family torn apart.  And it doesn’t end here.  There will be no shared experiences of a united family for the rest of our lives.  I won’t get to share my grandchildren with the man I love who is also their grandfather.  The whole scenario sucks and the effects are far-reaching through generations.  But anyway, that’s my story. It doesn’t have to be yours.  You have a wife who loves you very much and who is willing (as I was with my husband) to go through this fire with you.  To do the work and come out together on the other side, not unscathed, but reformed and more beautiful than ever. I hope for your sake and your family’s that you make the harder, but eventually more satisfying choice.  I hope this especially for (your daughter).  It’s not that I don’t care about (your wife).  I can see how she’s suffering and I relate to exactly what she’s going through, but worst case scenario, she’s pretty hot and awesome and she’ll find love again, I’m sure of it.  On the other hand, this will be a pretty damn impossible thing for (your daughter) to recover from.  Or you could be a model for her and show her what it really means to be fully human.  I hope you follow my father’s path and not my soon-to-be-ex-husband’s.

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